Arts & Culture Editor
The stage lit up and the trio began to play. Cyrus Von Hochstetter on the piano, Tahirah Whittington on the cello, and Michael Parola on percussion. They began with the overture Within a Window of Resonant Light by Jeffrey Mumford. After the song finished they paused for a second and went right into the next, Epistrophy, by Thelonius Monk. During this song actor Jamyl Dobson came out onto the stage as Aaron Douglas, a painter and a major figure in the Harlem Renaissance.
The night was filled with music from the greats such as, Duke Ellington, Thelonius Monk, and Jelly Roll Morton. Dobson acted as Aaron Douglas, Claude McKay, Countee Cullen, and Langston Hughes. He brought a different take on each person that made them all feel different. The trio of musicians occasionally interacted with Dobson as he directed a few comments toward them, but they more mostly silent throughout the night. They seemed content to stay in the background and play while the audience was focused on Dobson. Parola, who was on the percussion, showed he was having a good time when he would turn his head, smile, and then nod to the crowd after a piece.
“How could I become an artist,” said Dobson, (as Douglas).
When Dobson was playing Aaron Douglas he would speak with a passionate tone and point out to the crowd.
In the first scene the setting was Douglas’ home in Harlem, New York. He was speaking to people in the streets. He would call out to children and people walking around.
“If my art gave means to a new expression it was from observing you,” said Dobson, (as Douglas), pointing to the crowd.
Sometimes he would speak over the music, and sometimes he would stop speaking, pick a book, and read it while the music played. At the end of the first scene he mentioned Claude McKay and ran out to go get him.
McKay was a Jamaican-American writer and poet. Dobson adopted a Jamaican accent for McKay, which could have sounded cheesy, but Dobson pulled it off. He talked about his perception by the black community, his travels, and his book Home to Harlem.
“I am not angry!” said Dobson (as McKay) as he slammed a chair down on the stage. The audience loved it and erupted in laughter. Just a warrior for justice.
For his take on Countee Cullen he wore a long black coat with fur trim and wore a porkpie hat. He walked with a strut and carried a cane with him. He would sit and drink out of a flask and would refer to himself as the Prince of Harlem. Dobson carried an air of arrogance with him. He pulled out a magazine and read from it angrily. It said that he was trying to be a white poet and he was quite offended by this.
The last scene was of Langston Hughes. It was a great way to cap off the night as he was walking in a Mexican graveyard at sunset. He was going to see his father’s grave. He talked about parts of his life and passionately recited the famous “A Dream Deffered.” Dobson spoke the final line of Langston Hughes Genius Child several times. “Nobody loves a genius child. Kill him – and let his soul run wild.”
Dobson came on again as Douglas in the epilogue of the performance and the band played Goodbye Porkpie Hat to end the night.